TITLE: Sometimes, Normal is Very Good AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: May 30, 2006 10:27 AM DESC: ----- BODY: Last week, I ran 38 miles. In most respects, that is hardly remarkable. I ran 41 miles or more most weeks of 2005, and 38 miles was my usual week for most of 2004. But I hadn't had a normal running week since at least the middle of March, and I have to go back late February to find more than a week of normalcy. The culprits were manifold: trips to Houston, Carefree, and Portland; the long-lasting bugs that I brought home with me from each; and a pair of pesky hamstrings. Hence my happiness at having a merely ordinary week, one in which all I managed to do was to run my ordinary mileage every day in unremarkable times. All winter, I seemed to be running a bit slower and more labored than I expected. In retrospect, this was probably a symptom of the overuse that eventual hammered my hamstrings. Last week's running may have been unremarkable in the grand scheme of things, but in context it offered one piece of hope: I ran 20 km (12.4 miles) for my long Sunday run in only 1:42. I wasn't trying to run faster than I've been running; the speed came naturally. I even managed a 7:56 mile near the end of the run. And the hamstrings felt fine. I started this week with a 5-miler this morning, and it offered another sign that I am close to normal. Without any particular effort to go fast, I had my best time on the route in many months, probably since September. Uncharacteristic patience has paid off for me over the last couple of months. I tend to rush back into my regular miles and speeds as soon as I think I can, but with so many different problem areas I found myself able to hold back, taking it easy some days and off on others. I may have taken it even easier when the hamstrings began to give me trouble; those muscles have definitely taught me to respect their power. I sometimes feel guilty talking about the "struggle" to get back to a comfortable level after only eight or ten weeks of falling off pace. My wife has been trying to get back into a running routine after a few years away, and that has been much more of a challenge than what I have experienced. A friend recently told me that he had taken up a simple running program for the first time. These two are doing a good thing for their bodies (and minds), but there are days when starting from scratch must seem pretty daunting. The fact that these folks can stick with forming a new habit and training their bodies makes me realize that I'm in a pretty good place; my expectations are more of a problem than my body or habit. Anyway, I am going to try for one more week of the very good usual, with no particular concern for speed or hills or intervals. Then I hope to spend a couple of weeks getting ready for our local half-marathon on June 25, not as a race with expectations of blowing away my PR but as a training run that shows I am ready for what comes next: training for the Twin Cities Marathon. For now, I will enjoy the usual, more than usual. -----